What is goodness? How do we define it, and how do we walk it out?
There are many definitions for the word ‘good,’ and many ways that we use the word in everyday speech. “That was a good movie.” “Do you know of any good restaurants?” “Tommy was being very good today.” “That cut of meat looks good.” “That plan sounds like a good one.” “Okay, good.” “I feel good about that.” “She’s a good mom.”
But what, exactly, did Paul mean when he used the word ‘goodness’ when talking about the Fruit of the Spirit?
The word ‘goodness’ in Galatians is translated from the word agathosyne (a-ga-tho-su-nay), which means, “Uprightness of heart and life, goodness, kindness.” According to this definition, you can say that goodness starts with the heart, as all things tend to do.
Think about it this way: when speaking, what comes out of your mouth? While reading Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman a couple of years ago, I learned that what comes out of our mouths starts with the heart, enters our minds, and then exits in our speech. If we have hatred, jealousy, self-importance bubbling up from our heart, then that’s where our mind goes, and then out of our mouths. If we have love, hope, joy, then we will think on these things, and that is what we will speak.
What about our actions? Again, it starts in the heart. The things we do are dictated by what’s inside of us.
Jeremiah 6:16 addresses our walk by the words the Lord speaks. He tells us to “ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and [we] will find rest for our souls.” Think about walking down a forest path and coming to a fork or a crossroads. You look from left to right, examining each path, trying to decide which one you will walk down, knowing you can only choose one.
Now picture these paths as good and evil. As believers, it’s easy to make the decision for good, to choose light over darkness. But as you begin to walk down the path of good, you start to find stones of varying sizes along the way, and though you may easily step over a few, there are times you find yourself starting to trip.
Maybe these are times when you’re having a rough day and you can’t take one more thing going wrong, but then you go to make dinner and your oven decides it no longer wants to work. Or maybe you receive yet another spam call on your cell phone, and you just want these people to leave you alone already.
Do you have kids? Perhaps it’s already past bedtime, but that’s when your child decides to linger even longer – while your other child is talking to you – so that he can remind you about downloading an app on your phone so you can follow his rewards progress on it from school even though you have work to do that is difficult to work on while he’s still up, and he could have reminded you earlier. (No? Just me?)
Whatever our stumbling stone is, it tends to affect how we react. And when we choose to react with anger – because how we react is always a choice – it is inevitable that we end up regretting it.
But what if we instead choose this idea of goodness? When looking at the definition again, the word ‘uprightness’ is the one that precedes ‘heart.’ ‘Uprightness,’ or ‘
Before we are able to choose goodness, we need to fill our hearts with love.
Did you notice how kindness was also in that definition? When delving into this concept of the Fruit of the Spirit, it becomes evident just how much each fruit works together. You can’t have one without another; they are all swirled together like play-doh a three-year-old has grabbed hold of, mixing all the colors so that they are still visible individually but impossible to pull apart.
In this same way, choosing goodness means that we need to be conscious of, and embrace all that the Spirit gives to us. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness and self-control will all help us to walk upright, to choose what is right. They will help us to act how we must if we want to call ourselves Christians. If we want to walk in goodness, then this is something we must do.
Goodness is a type of moral compass, but instead of having our needle always pointing north, it needs to always point to the One.
Lord, you set out a path before each one of us, and it is up to us to walk the good way. Lord, you are the Way, and I just thank you for the opportunity that we have to choose you. Help us, oh Lord, to fill our hearts with love, and to choose goodness. Help us to walk upright. In your most holy name, I pray. Amen.